PIEDMONT -- The city's two home invasion robberies Monday took center stage at Tuesday night's City Council meeting with numerous residents demanding immediate action.

There have been four home invasion robberies in the city since December.

"I'm very concerned with what is going on," said Angela Teixeira, who works with Neighborhood Watch groups in Oakland. "Can our police handle this? Are you only reporting crimes, but not attending to crimes? Give us a plan of action."

Other residents said they never see patrol cars in their neighborhoods, claiming police spend more time covering vandalism sprees than serious crimes.

"This is not an overreaction," resident Barry Barnes said. "Major violent events in our city need to be addressed immediately."

Residents urged beefing up patrols, hiring additional officers and/or allowing more overtime. They murmured in the hallway about installing motion sensor lights and burglar alarms.

New Police Chief Rikki Goede, formerly assistant chief for San Jose police, was sworn in at a City Hall ceremony prior to the council meeting Tuesday and told the full chamber at the start of the meeting that she intends to do everything necessary to get crime under control.

"You'll see me out there," Goede said. "But the police department can't do it alone. We've got to get more Neighborhood Watch going."

A public safety town hall meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12 for residents to voice their concerns. The venue is being determined.

"This is a big issue, what has happened and going forward," City Administrator Geoff Grote said.

Michael Gardner, chair of the city's public safety committee reported on the positive steps his committee has taken to fulfill their charge. Those include reviewing the city's emergency plan and emergency email notification system, hosting a comprehensive "safety fair" at the Harvest Festival and review of crime statistics. More than 200 residents signed up as a result of community outreach, he said, with interest in Neighborhood Watch and other crime prevention strategies.

But Gardner took the council and Grote to task for lack of communication.

"We have to read things in the paper to find out about them," Gardner said, citing the retirement announcement of the fire chief as one example.

The council also discussed possible uses for the empty wing at 801 Magnolia, adjacent to the Piedmont Center for the Arts. Recreation Director Mark Delventhal is proposing the city-owned space be converted for a child care center, citing a need as critical. Several emails received from residents urge a complete vetting before any decision is made, saying multi purposes should be considered serving a variety of community needs. The council will revisit the issue in March.

The council approved 4-0 with Councilman Bob McBain absent, to appropriate $42,485 to Coastland Engineers to fund a long-term facilities maintenance plan. They also approved spending $65,826 for annual pruning of 954 street trees, costing $69 per tree.

"We've kept the price down. We will start immediately," Public Works Director Chester Nakahara said.

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